Friday, February 28, 2014

Check out UNSCREENED 2014!

Haven Entertainment and Firefly Theater & Films will present the fourth annual Unscreened, a lively evening of four world-premiere short plays by some of Hollywood’s fastest-rising writers and featuring a multi-star cast, opening Monday night, March 3 at the Lillian Theater.

Performances will run on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evenings at 8:00pm through Sunday, March 31. Tickets are available at www.unscreenedla.com or by calling Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006.

The writers of Unscreened this year include:  Nick Confalone and Neal Dusedau (Cartoon Network’s Johnny Test), Emmy-winner Eric Ledgin (NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), Dan Mirk (The Onion) and Niki Schwartz-Wright (ABC’s The Golbergs).

The exciting cast features J. Claude Deering (Things Are Going Great for Me with J. Claude Deering), Beau Garret (TRON: Legacy, Criminal Minds), Lindsey Kraft (Getting On), Chris Marquette (Fanboys), Kate Miner (Necessary Roughness), Brian Sacca (Wolf of Wall Street), Michael Stahl-David (My Generation, The Black Donnellys), Eric Tiede (Kickin’ It), Jon Barinholtz, Jill Bartlett, Patrick Censopiano, Kiva Jump, Angela Trimbur, Amanda Walsh, and Chris Witaske.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

LA FIRSTS: Brian Duffield



Brian Duffield is the son of missionaries who became a screenwriter one dark and terrible night. He recently finished adapting INSURGENT, the sequel to DIVERGENT, and hopes to direct his horrific romance VIVIEN HASN'T BEEN HERSELF LATELY later this year. He is repped by Circle of Confusion and Gersh, and is owned by a fiance and a puppy. You can ask him questions at his website and follow him on Twitter @brianduffield.
 
When did you first move to LA? What was the ultimate thing that made you pull the trigger?

My friend Matt Wells and I drove out to LA starting a few hours after we graduated college in 2008. We had a summer internship program starting a few weeks into the summer at the Oakwoods through Temple University, so we got a head start. I had just gotten my license a day before, so Matt drove most of the way in fear that I would kill him. As far as what made me pull the trigger, LA was always the place I had wanted and planned on moving as soon as college ended. It was a no-brainer.

What was your first job in LA?

My first non-industry job was at Storyopolis, then in Studio City. I'm not sure where it is now. It was a small children's book store/art gallery that specialized in story time and gift baskets. I did inventory and dabbled in the other areas. My co-worker Blake Harris is also a professional writer now, so it proved to be a fertile ground for us, even when the recession ruined everything. I felt my first earthquake there. Nannies were terrified, but the babies loved it.

Where/What was your first apartment like?

Our very first apartment was at the Oakwoods, which is this fancy place studios put up actors and parents drag child stars. It's located off Barham Blvd. We had classes there at night and interned during the day. Our neighbors were (literally) RJ Mitte and Robert Pattinson, but this was in 2008 so neither were really famous yet. Our first real apartment was this disaster hole on Laurel Canyon and Vanowen. It was two (small) bedrooms with four guys. We all slept on the floor for the most part.

What was your first general meeting like?

I don't remember who it was with, honestly. It was all a blur. It was after my managers sent out YOUR BRIDESMAID IS A BITCH which happened a few days after I met them. I was working at a clothing factory in Vernon at the time and would try to get out of work early so I could rush down for a meeting. This was probably October or November of 2010. Everyone was very complimentary about the script but I just figured that my managers were sending me to all their friends to make me feel good about them as reps. I had no idea people actually liked it and wanted to buy it until people bought it.

How about your first pitch?

It was for dinosaur set pieces for a dinosaur movie. Someone had read YOUR BRIDESMAID IS A BITCH and literally thought, wow, Duffield talks about dinosaurs a lot in this rom-com, then called my reps and asked if I was obsessed with dinosaurs. The answer is yes and they asked me to come up with some set pieces for a couple of weeks. I learned then that pitching crazy dinosaur set pieces is the easiest pitch in the world. I got the job and the set pieces were awesome but I don't think any of them were used. They were pretty crazy, to be fair.

How did you react when you found out you'd made your first sale?

I was sitting at my desk at the clothing factory. We didn't have wifi or internet and the phone signal was crap so I had daily check-in times with the reps where I would run outside and call and then run back. And then one time they said it looked like Skydance were going to make an offer, and I quickly said awesome and ran back inside to work and didn't really know how to tell anybody. That night my roommate Matt Mead and I hosted a small group from our church I think, and we got champagne and also had a strobe light and fog machine (I have a strange apartment) and welcomed friends to our apartment through a haze of smoke and epilepsy and alcohol.

What was your first screenplay assignment? What do you think you've learned since then?

My first feature assignment was actually INSURGENT from last year. Before then, I had really loved writing specs and had almost exclusively just done that, until I had a horrific experience with one of my scripts just getting destroyed and thought, well I'm either moving into comic books or taking assignments. And then INSURGENT came along and I think my manager pitched it as “Kate Winslet hunting Shailene Woodley” and I thought, well I'm reading that as soon as possible. And so I read it and really dug it, and the entire amazing cast that Neil Burger (who directed DIVERGENT) had assembled and pitched on that and was lucky enough to get it. I'm looking to go up on more assignments when I find the right project, and I'll eventually get back to writing specs and either directing them myself or finding the right director for it first.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Recommendation letters for writing fellowships

Marie writes: Some writing contests and fellowships require industry letters of recommendation. What if you don't have any connections to industry? How would one find someone to help with this?

I know this can be frustrating, especially if you don't live in L.A. and don't work in the industry -- but the fact that 7 out of the 8 people selected for ABC/Disney's writing fellowship this year don't live in L.A. should be encouraging.

When I met with one of the directors of the ABC/Disney writing fellowship, he stressed to me that recommendations needn't come from powerful people in high positions. You could ask a co-worker or a writing professor. You could also ask someone outside the writing/entertainment world to recommend you based on your work ethic and character, though the writing is most important.

These programs like to see that you're already trying to make your own connections in the industry. They're looking for ambitious, determined people -- and if you haven't made any connections, you might not be ready for such a program. See if there's some kind of writing or entertainment-related job you could get in your area (local news publication? film production?). You could also look into industry internships or script coverage jobs that can be done via the internet.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Apply for a fellowship at westside writing space theOffice

If you're looking for a writing space outside your apartment, you can now enter to win a FREE 6 month Premium Membership to theOffice (worth $2500+). The fellowship starts April 1st and goes through September 30, 2014.

theOffice is a quiet, communal workspace on 26th Street in Santa Monica (across from the Brentwood Country Mart). There are 26 ergonomic workstations in the room equipped with Aeron chairs, wifi, daily newspapers, a reference library and all the coffee you can handle.

Charter and current members include J.J. Abrams, Jim Uhls, Blake Herron, Gigi Levangie Grazer, Gary Glasberg and more.

The deadline to apply is March 15th and the contest is free to enter.  The winner will be announced the last week of March.

For more details (including what last year's winner had to say about the experience), visit theOfficeonlineBlog.com. You can also try out the space for a week for free.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three big myths in the aspiring writer world



Megan McArdle wrote an interesting piece for The Atlantic about why writers are the worst procrastinators:
Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out. 
Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A's in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class. 
This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not—indeed, probably won’t—be the best anymore. 
She isn't specifically writing about screenwriting, but I think her points are applicable. I was definitely one of those annoying kids who didn't have to try very hard to get As in English class. Writing came especially easy to me, and I'm sure that has a lot to do with why I pursued this path.

We've been writing prose since first grade, but screenwriting isn't something we normally study until at least college -- so it's inherently challenging because it's foreign to us at first. Add in the challenges of actually getting noticed as a screenwriter in Hollywood, and succeeding at this vocation is nearly impossible. It's understandable that we're not prepared for the harsh realities of pursuing a screenwriting career.

This all got me thinking about some myths that hold aspiring writers back. It's important to be realistic and to try to understand the industry from beyond the writer perspective.

1. But I'm Brilliant (My English Teacher Said So)! 

I'm incredibly grateful to the many teachers I've had who supported and encouraged me to write, but Hollywood is not high school (or academia). Producers, agents and other industry folk are probably not going to shower you with the kind of praise you got for that D.A.R.E. essay or even your screenwriting MFA script. Get ready for people to give you endless notes and to pass on your scripts; the supportive environment of academia does not exist in Hollywood. Also, college-level work is not good enough to get you a professional writing job, and you probably need to write a lot more and improve your craft. You can't expect it to be easy, the way it might have been in high school - and please don't be That Guy who gets a pass and responds with something along the lines of "You're wrong!! You must not have read it carefully! I'm a genius!"

You have a lot to learn about the industry, too. Whenever I meet interns, I'm always a little amused by how confident they are, despite their complete lack of knowledge and experience. They don't even know what they don't know, and they're used to professors and classmates validating their opinions. A benefit of interning (or working as an assistant) is that you'll get a big reality check about your place on the totem pole. We all have to go through it.

2. There Are Tons of Talented People Who Can't Get In The Door!

Hollywood is an insular industry that tends to reward privilege and connections. I often recommend that people make contacts by getting an industry job, but I realize that working as an assistant at a talent agency is a lot more feasible if one of the partners was in your Ivy League frat and your rich parents can send you whiskey rent money. Still, there aren't that many brilliant scribes waiting just outside the iron gates. Writers have a few ways in, such as screenwriting contests -- and I've read for enough contests to know that the quality of amateur script submissions is mediocre to terrible. Many writers lack originality and fail to really study the craft. If a script is truly good (a subjective opinion, sure, but we can't get anywhere as screenwriters until someone else validates our material), then it will get in the door eventually. Are there a few genuises out there who might have trouble getting noticed? Sure. But not as many as you think.

I know the high barriers of entry are frustrating, but I also believe that if you're determined enough, you'll find a way to get your script read. If you're having trouble getting traction with your scripts, it might have more to do with the scripts than with the industry's barriers.


3. Hollywood Is Desperate For My Material!

Managers, studio executives and other Hollywood types are always on the lookout for material -- but they're not desperately scouring the internet. They're not bored; they're busy, inundated with scripts, books, articles and other ideas from colleagues, established writers, reps, etc. Assistants and development execs sometimes read dozens of scripts in a single weekend. Reps already have clients, and producers already have projects.

This might be hard to hear, but nobody will miss you if you stop aspiring. The entertainment industry already has plenty of writers and ideas, and could keep churning out content without any new people at all. Of course movies and TV would be better with more diverse viewpoints, but I haven't met a lot of people who are actively seeking out new voices, or at least people who feel they don't already have the ability to find new voices through traditional channels like agents and managers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

LA FIRSTS: Chris Cullari & Jennifer Raite


LA FIRSTS is an interview series at ATW&SB that shines a spotlight on just a few of the countless people who make the brave and absurd decision to move to Los Angeles to write for film or TV. We talk about what got them packing boxes, the realities that hit when they first came to L.A. and important milestones they finally achieved.

Chris Cullari and Jennifer Raite are a writing/directing team repped at Gersh and Stagecoach Entertainment. They released their breakthrough short, "The Sleepover," in 2012 and are now working to get their first feature off the ground while prepping to go out for TV staffing season. You can find them getting weird @Chris_Cullari and @jenniferraite.

When did you first realize that you wanted, or needed, to move to LA?


Chris:  It wasn’t something I realized that I wanted or needed to do for the longest time. I knew I wanted to write from the time I was in kindergarten, but I grew up so far removed from even the idea of the film industry that Los Angeles was barely on my radar. When I imagined “making movies” I always saw it happening at home in Pennsylvania, which is hilarious to me now. It wasn’t until the end of college that all my friends in my program at Emerson started leaving for LA, that I was like “Oh, right. That. Better say bye to everyone I’ve ever loved.”

Jennifer: I decided to move to LA the day after I decided not to pursue a PhD in Art History. I was a double major at Vassar, but before graduating I sort of had to make a choice. After really thinking about it, I realized two things: first, movies had my heart, and I was ready to lay myself at their feet - even if that meant leaving the East Coast and all of my friends who were going to grad school. Second, there was no way I was going to pass the reading proficiency exams in two foreign languages that I needed for the PhD, so…  

How did your friends and family react when you first told them you were moving?

Chris: They saw it coming before I did. I think my mom was prepping for it from the time I was in high school. I, however, reacted by crying like a baby the day I started driving out.

Jennifer: I’m an only child, so I think my parents are still in denial.  

What was the first thing you did when you arrived?

Chris: Technically, the first thing we did was go to the MTV Movie Awards. I’d won a trip through a college filmmaker competition MTV was running, and it coincided with when we both were getting ready to make the move. I had to fly back for my car and to finish up some school stuff, but Jen stayed behind.

Jennifer: Which was awesome, because MTV unknowingly helped subsidize my moving costs. I cancelled my return flight and used the credit to go home for the holidays. Merry Christmas to me! 

Chris: After we were both out here and settled the first thing we did was go see The Strangers at Mann’s Chinese. And then the next next thing we did was not sleep for a week.

Jennifer: It was the first time I appreciated the bars on LA apartment windows.

How did you find your first LA apartment (and what was it like)?

Jennifer: Craigslist. And I was so lucky that first swing out. We had an amazing management company; no terrible landlord stories, no insane neighbors. Well, the lady next door did some really aggressive aerobics. 

Chris: She’d blast Creed to get amped. To this day, I associate Scott Stapp with an impending workout. We did have a homeless guy living under our place at one point, too. He’d hooked up a coffee maker and everything. It was pretty impressive. And - oh - the Door Fucker Guy. Can we tell that story? This creeper was sticking his junk through people’s mail slots at night and our cat swatted at him.

Jennifer: He didn’t come back.

What was your first LA neighborhood like?

Chris: Contrary to the land of nightmares and deviants we just described, it was really great! Our complex butted up against a park without a lot of sightlines to the street, which was how we ended up with shady types hanging around sometimes, but in the two times we’ve moved, we never left the same mile or so radius. We’re in the Fairfax/Melrose area, so there are lots of great bars, restaurants and movie theaters nearby, and we have a great group of friends in our neighborhood.

How did you find your first job in LA?

Jennifer: Making money or working for free?  

Chris: I think making money. We were really good at working for free, though. Too good.

Jennifer: My first real job was doing film distribution data entry on the Fox lot. A really fantastic executive at the production company where I had been an intern put me up for it. What they really needed was a paralegal but they couldn’t afford one, so she (the exec) convinced them I was just as good and they hired me.  

Chris: I worked as an Office PA at a game show/reality show company. My cousin had put in some time there and dropped a good word for me.

What was that first job like?

Jennifer: The job itself was, well, data entry, but I was just so excited to be getting paid. The people were really cool and I loved working on a studio lot. Walking through the backlot sets to get to the commissary for lunch never stopped being mindblowing.

Chris: Exhausting.  A new adventure every day.  It spoiled me a little because everyone was really, really nice. I volunteered for every trip that needed to be made to their storage facility because they’d made some shows I remembered from when I was a kid and it was cool to see all the old props and photos they’d saved.

How did that first job help you land on your feet/expand your social circle?

Chris: Even though nothing that Jen and I were writing fit the mold of what the company was doing, one of the executives there had come from the feature world and was willing to take a look at our work. He gave us invaluable notes on our first feature script and offered to help us develop our second.

Jennifer: It helped get me on my feet financially. Plus, I had been going up for a string of development assistant type jobs, and it helped me realize what I really needed to be filling my days with was writing. The data entry gig left me determined to find a way to make just enough money so that I could support myself and write full time. 

What was your social circle like when first arriving in LA?

Chris: I had it kind of easy. All of my college friends moved here, so my network for support and fun was already pretty solid.

Jennifer: None of mine did.  

Chris: Jen became an honorary Emersonian very quickly.

Jennifer: Some of them swear up and down I actually went there.

Chris: But! Here’s the thing that kind of sucked - having that network kept both of us from branching out as much as we could’ve.  

What was the first time LA felt like home?

Chris: My answer to this is so depressing.  Never.  I’m working on it, but I like seasons too much.  East Coast is where it’s at.  

Jennifer: I don’t know if it was a specific moment, but I think it’s come out of the group of friends we’ve built. Home is having people who you can always call or text or knock on their door in the middle of the night. Or who will feed your cat because you’ve been stuck on set for 16 hours.

What was the first time moving to LA felt like a mistake?

Chris: This answer will be more uplifting: also never!  I’ve had weird jobs, bad jobs and demoralizing jobs, but I’ve never had that holy-shit-what-have-I-done-with-my-life moment.

Jennifer: I did!  I didn’t know a soul in LA when I moved here.  Chris had flown back, and like two days later, I totalled my brand new (and first) car with about 20 miles on it.  

How did you move past that first time feeling that?

Jennifer: This is so dumb, but in the spirit of honesty: a day or so after the accident I finally left my apartment in an attempt to stop moping and walked to Target.  Inside, I saw Jenna Fischer and Amy Adams run into each other.  They’re both a lot more famous now, but at the time it felt like a special TV nerd moment just for me; Pam Beesly and Purse Girl together at Target.  

Chris: Even though I’ve never felt like moving was a mistake, I’ve had dozens of little lows that were tough to move past.  Usually a walk and some coffee clears the worst of it, but I also like to sit down with an awful script and a great script - like Transformers 2 and Shaun of the Dead.  I’ll read the awful script first and go “Okay, you’re so much better than that,” and then I’ll read the great one to remind myself of where I want to be as a writer and how much farther I have to go.  That combo’s like a spark and some oxygen to get the fire roaring again.

Did you have the kind of writing time you expected when you first got settled?

Chris: No, absolutely not.  Life and work gets in the way.  To counter that, we drove ourselves insane for the first year or so.  We’d get up two or three hours before we had to leave for work to write, then come home and write more.  After a while, it just wasn’t working.  We were never leaving the apartment, we were fighting all the time and we were ready to kill each other.  It was too much.  We realized we’d have to live on even less money and work “real jobs” as little as possible to leave more time to write.

Jennifer: Luckily, a few months after that realization we both got jobs doing freelance coverage for a publishing company and never looked back.

Chris: It’s unnerving not knowing exactly how you’ll make rent every month, but the freedom is amazing.  It actually makes it possible to write almost full time.

What lead to your first bit of exposure as a writer?

Jennifer: There were a lot of near misses.  Like “this is it - it’s happening!” and then it didn’t. 

Chris: The first thing that really connected with a wider audience was a short film we made in 2012, “The Sleepover.”  We’d been writing together for almost four years, but it wasn’t until we made that piece that we discovered it was much easier to get people to pay attention for five minutes and then hit them with a writing sample than it was to just try to get people to read material cold.

Jennifer: It hit the right nerves.  We played the festivals we wanted to play and were covered by the websites we read every day, which was really incredible.  It was at that point that an agent who’d been encouraging us for almost a year and half read a second writing sample, loved it, and offered to rep us.

How much longer did that exposure take from when you first expected it?

Chris: Part of me thought it took four years too long, but the other part couldn’t believe it happened at all.  I’d tried so hard to put expectations and time-frames out of my mind that it blindsided me a little.

Jennifer: There were a few things with the misses that could’ve potentially been bigger, and each time we whiffed, it felt like “If not now, when?”  We had a small development deal that was a great learning experience but didn’t result in a project getting off the ground.  We placed well in a few of the big screenwriting competitions, but never won.  We fell one round short of getting into one of the TV writing fellowships.  Eventually, we learned to just take those as reminders that we were doing good work, instead of dwelling on them as failures or missed opportunities.

If you could do it all again, which of your firsts in LA would you do differently (and why)?

Chris: I probably would start daydreaming about moving to California earlier - maybe around age ten - get really excited about it for twelve years, and then be ecstatic to arrive.  I think falling in love with the city and feeling like I was at home from day one would’ve helped me get out more, meet more people, and not go see The Strangers before I knew all the weird noises my apartment made.
  
Jennifer: I think I’d try to be a little less hard on myself  Every opportunity, especially early on, just felt like the end of the world if I didn’t nail it.  “I should’ve given this better answer,” or “I should’ve tried harder to impress that executive” or “why didn’t that person get back to us about our script?”  At the end of the day, you have to be happy with working really, really hard because most days knowing that is the reward.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

LA FIRSTS: Joshua Caldwell


LA FIRSTS is an interview series at ATW&SB that shines a spotlight on just a few of the countless people who make the brave and absurd decision to move to Los Angeles to write for film or TV. We talk about what got them packing boxes, the realities that hit when they first came to L.A. and important milestones they finally achieved.

Joshua Caldwell is a writer, director and producer based in Los Angeles, CA. He runs his award-winning production company Meydenbauer Entertainment, where you can see some of his work and hosts the podcast Hollywood Bound & Down. Follow him on Twitter: @Joshua_Caldwell.
 
When did you first move to LA? What made you bite the bullet and do it?

I moved to LA in October of 2006. I had originally planned to stay in Seattle after college and start a production company with some buddies of mine, get some feature films going and then move to LA when I had a reason to move to LA. We figured it'd be better to be a big fish in a little pond. What made me bite the bullet much sooner than I planned was that in June of 2006, immediately following my college graduation, I won a Golden Popcorn at the MTV Movie Awards in the Best Film on Campus category. As a result, I was meeting with agents, managers, and production companies and I realized if there was ever a time to move to LA, this was it. Of course, it took years before anything ever really came of it but I still think it was a smart move.

What was your first apartment like?

When I moved to LA, I moved with two friends of mine and we didn't know the city, didn't know where to live and we were looking for 3 bedrooms. The only thing we could afford was was, what we felt at the time, not close to the center of LA. Of course, now I live not that far away from one of those apartments we looked at and realize it's not as bad as we thought. So, my friend and I agreed to share a bedroom and we decided to get a place in Park La Brea. I'm pretty sure there's a huge number of people who had their first apartment in Park La Brea and for those who don't know, Park La Brea is this huge apartment complex in Los Angeles with a bunch of apartment towers and then rows and rows of townhomes. It has like 4000 units or something like that and was built in the late 1940's. It was a great place though. Spacious, even with two double beds in the master bedroom, and it was really close to everything. I honestly couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Los Angeles.

What was your first job? 

Technically, my first job in LA was directing a bunch of music videos for Epic Records (see below) but that was more of a gig. The first real job I had after moving to LA was working at Nordstrom in the men's shoe department. I did it because 1) I had just gotten married and needed a steady income, 2) they allowed me a ton of flexibility with regards to meetings and time off and 3) I thought it would be short term as I looked for an industry job. I ended up leaving right as the great recession was hitting. You work pretty much entirely on commission and the dwindling paycheck, coupled with the soul crushing retail experience, ended up causing me to quit.

Any weird job interview stories or unusual tasks you had to perform?

I don't really have any weird interview stories or unusual tasks but one of the things I found to be very frustrating while interviewing for jobs was my experience. I had too much of it. I was going out for editor positions at documentary companies and assistant positions as weird, small production companies and was getting turned down because I, apparently, had too much experience. And I was like, "No, I really want the assistant editing job." So, it was actually a very frustrating process for me because I don't think any of these companies saw the advantages of having someone with my experience, I think they just wanted a body to run errands. Or maybe they could tell I was lying about my enthusiasm for answering phones.

There was one random gig. I was always on the lookout for side gigs to earn extra money, specifically editing gigs (easier to come by than writing or directing gigs) and I actually ended up editing this Persian music video. It was shot on the RED camera (which at the time was brand new) and so I wanted to get my hands on some footage. I had randomly applied for the job among many others and then the director got back to me. As I recall, he showed me which existing music video we were ripping off, and asked me to basically copy it -- which I did. I turned it in and never heard from the guy again.

What was the first thing you shot? 

The first thing I directed in LA was in February of 2007 and it was a music video series for Ronnie Day, a singer/songwriter signed to Epic Records. The series was a co-production between Epic and mtvU, MTV's university network, through whom I had won the MTV Movie Award. So, they came to me and asked if this is something I would be interested in doing. The project was to shoot six music videos that told a narrative story. We were given $60,000, which for me sounded like a lot of money, but in the end really wasn't. Ronnie Day's album was...not quite concept, but essentially through the individual songs, told the story of his romance and break up with his girlfriend. I picked the six songs that I felt best highlighted the big moments and set to work. We shot the film down in Orange County, Los Angeles and up in Northridge. My goal was to give the series a sense of how epic teen romance feels, to paint a picture of how it felt to be going through something like that, during that time of your life, and I think I succeeded. Met some great people on that shoot, including Tiffany Brouwer, an actress who I've since worked with a number of times.

The idea was to air this as a six week series on mtvU and so I actually spent three months in New York editing the videos out of the mtvU post-production facilities and became great friends with a number of the guys who worked there. Personally, I think they came out really well but we found out before the last video even aired that Epic had dropped Ronnie from their label -- so the videos themselves never really gained much traction beyond the initial airing, although you can continue to find them online.

When was the first time you felt like you had "made it" or what was an important milestone for you?

The first time I felt like I had "made it" and that things were going to be okay was when I was promoted to Director of Digital Media at Anthony E. Zuiker's company Dare to Pass. I started there as an assistant and quickly showed my value -- enough to earn the promotion. The benefit to that I was now classified as an executive, working for the creator of CSI:. And you don't really go backwards from that. If for some reason I had to leave, I could be looking for junior executive or executive jobs -- instead of assistant jobs. So, that's when I was like, okay, you've got some cache and you'll be able to use this job to find the next one. Of course, what I realized was that I didn't want to be executive, so when I did leave, I did so to pursue work as a director/producer -- but the friends I made while working at Dare to Pass and the industry contacts I gained have definitely served me well.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Black List launches TV diversity program with TNT and TBS

More good news for people looking to break into TV: The Black List has partnered with TNT and TBS to offer diverse writers blind script deals and TV writing staff positions.

From The Hollywood Reporter:
Submissions to the Black List website will now include episodic work for the first time ever. Submissions to the TNT and TBS initiative will be judged by the Black List's  community of industry professionals and readers. Among the five finalists, some will have the opportunity to sign script deals. 
TNT and TBS, which will be searching for both half-hour comedies and full-hour dramas, will have the option to offer blind script deals and also the ability to share finalists' work with current network showrunners in the hopes of landing staff positions for applicants.
The Black List says that it takes "a broad view of diversity guided by the WGAw writers report."
Other eligiblity info:
If you've got more questions, hit up @TheBlckLst on Twitter.

Screenwriting links: Mon, Feb 3

WGA: ‘Captain Phillips,’ ‘Her’ Win Top Screenplay Awards [Variety]

Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014 [Rolling Stone]

The Top Female Screenwriters [Industrial Scripts]

Workshop Promotes Good Sex ... In Writing [DNAInfo Chicago]

Write What You Know, Especially if It’s Difficult Family
[The New York Times]

Jason Reitman talks chemistry, peach pies and 'Labor Day' [Digital Journal]

Julie Delpy on ‘Before Midnight’: ‘Obsessively Written, Down to the Commas’ [Variety]

Disney/ABC Writing Program Announces 2014 Participants [Deadline]

Tom Gormican Interview: First-Time Director Talks ‘That Awkward Moment’ and Its Surprise Post-Credits Cameo [Screen Crush]

Shonda Rhimes on her DGA Diversity Award: 'We're a tiny bit p-ssed off that there has to be an award' [Entertainment Weekly]

Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014 Academy Nicholl Fellowships Now Open



The 2014 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition is now open to submissions.

Early Bird Deadline: February 28 @ 5pm PT ($35 per entry)
Regular Deadline: April 10 @ 5pm PT ($50 per entry)
Late Deadline: May 1 @ 5pm PT ($65 per entry)

To enter, you must submit a screenplay (in PDF form), completed entry form and submission fee online. You may enter up to three scripts in the competition. Writers from any country are eligible, as long as their scripts are in English and they have not earned more than $25,000 writing fictional work for film and/or television in their lifetime.

Up to five $35,000 fellowships are awarded annually to feature writers. Fellowship recipients are expected to complete at least one original feature film screenplay during the Fellowship year. Fellowship recipients, selected from approximately ten finalists in the competition, are announced in October. The winners are invited to participate in awards week ceremonies and seminars in November.

For more information, check out the competition's official FAQ page.